Monday, June 30, 2008

Spain end 44-year title drought

Yes, you read that right. Spain has won the a major championship. A 1-0 victory over Germany made them the champions of Europe.

Football's perennial underachievers finally made good after Fernando Torres 33rd min goal. To be fair, the Spaniards were by far the better side in the finals and they were one of the better sides in the Euros. Even Germany coach Joachim Low admitted after the game that Spain had deserved to beat his side. The biggest difference for me was the decision by Spain's Coach Luis Aragones to play with only one up front and Torres looked very comfortable in the role as he played as the sole striker for a whole season for Liverpool.

Spain: The Champions of Europe

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Euro 08

The semis of Euro 08 are over and the finals are here. Two countries still in the running and here’s my view on them.

Germany- Germany was lucky against Turkey. Scoring in injury-time to get the win, they were damm lucky. The kind of luck that makes me thinks they will be favorites against Spain. You can never write off the Germans and Coach Joachim Low has managed to tweak his team into a winning one. Michael Ballack is basically playing as a second striker behind Miroslav Klose with Lukas Podolski and Bastian Schweinsteiger supporting in the wings. However, this system leak goals and with the running of Fernando Torres, the speed of Silva, the passing of Xavi; Spain will score. In my humble view, Torston Frings must play or else the German defense is in for a torrid time against the Spaniards.

Spain- Don’t let the 3-0 score line fool you. I thought Russia had the better of the game before Xavi managed to put Spain in front for good. Since the group stages ended, I think Spain has been more interested in keeping clean sheets than scoring goals. Not a bad idea actually as they do have David Villa and Fernando Torres up front. However, if both teams play with their same style, than Germany will have an extra man in midfield. As good as I think Marcos Senna has been, that’s a big problem for Spain. For Spain, a lot will depend on whether Xavi and Senna can stop Ballack and company from running riot in the midfield.

Winner: Germany

Friday, June 27, 2008

Comics this week

Final Crisis #2- Wow! When I saw the last page of this issue; Wow! Now that’s a surprise. Whatever problems Final Crisis has, risk taking is not one of them. A good thing because it does have some problems. One of the biggest is the threat of the story. Now we know it has something to do with Darkseid and the New Gods, about how Darkseid won the war of the gods, but what is Darkseid trying to do on Earth? And how does Libra fit into all this? 2 issues in and we have more puzzles than we have answers. Add to this was the 50 year old bullet that travel back in time, and we have a real muddle of a series. One more thing; you need to have a real knowledge of the DCU or else Final Crisis will make no sense whatsoever. It’s lack of accessibility is a real problem as at the end we see quite a number of Flash (hint, hint) and if you don’t know the backstory of the Flash or Crisis, you have no chance of understanding the series so far. Still, that last page ensured that I’ll be here for the next issue. Wow!

Trinity #4- I can understand what writer Kurt Busiek is trying to do. He is trying to tell the readers the different roles Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are playing in the DCU. He is having a hard time of it. The big problem with this is that he isn’t trying anything that 10 other writers hadn’t tried before. Also having the Justice League fights a super-strong alien in Konvict is also something other people had tried before (can anyone say Doomsday). I also don’t know about having the two villains, Morgan Le Fey and Enigma, sitting there watching the battle between the JLA and Konvict. I mean if these two are to match Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, surely they need to do more than just sit and watch in Morgan Le Fey’s castle? Long way to go before it reached the height of 52.

Avengers: The Initiative #14- Another issue, another new member for the cast of Avengers: The Initiative. The issue is on 3-D Man, a recent Initiative graduate who somehow inherited the leadership of the Initiative team in Hawaii, The Point Men. How in the world did a recent graduate from boot camp managed to score a leadership role in his first assignment? Who cares? Not Dan Slott and Christos Gage. Anyway, despite this glaring mistake, this issue exactly worked. 3-D has the ability to detect Skrulls and took all of a day to see a Skrull on his team and is tipped off to the impending invasion. I like the fact that the Skrulls were undone by an old-school visor; a bit of forgotten technology they had no right to know of. Another plot development was between cast members Crusader and Yellowjacket. Both are Skrulls, but both are unaware of the other. The sheer length both Skrulls are willing to go to keep their secret was very funny. Initiative is still the best Avengers book out there. Marvel has a winner here.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Singapore is WEAK!

Yes, that’s right. Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew had openly admitted this. Our 84 year old patriarch said in a speech that if the Singapore opposition ever gained power, they would ruin the country in five years.

If that is the case, the PAP must do better. I mean America survived 8 year of Bush and they are still the sole super-power in the world. Russia survived a decade under Boris Yeltsin, and is now back. But 5 years under the opposition...we would be ruined!

As much as I respect Mr. Lee, if Singapore is ruined by the opposition in just 5 years, I’m afraid the PAP will have to take some of the blame as well. Think about it, the PAP had been in power since independence. Over 40 years in power but we will be ruined after just 5 years of opposition rule. Any voters (or anyone for that matter) will come to the same conclusion when faced with these numbers.

Now some Singaporeans might think that Mr. Lee is "playing the same old record" when he delivers his warning, but I think he truly believe in what he was saying. If I am right and that is the case, I think Mr. Lee should concentrate on helping his son’s government to make Singapore stronger.

After all, no one want to see Singapore “ruined”.

The Overkill Games

I know the Beijing Olympic Games is a huge thing for China, but talk about overkill.

Beijing has hired 8,000 toilet maintenance staff just for the Games. Each is responsible for a specific public restroom in the city and all are trained in hygiene standards and techniques, Olympic knowledge and English expressions. There are even inspections every week to make sure they are up to standards.

8,000? Is the city so dirty they need to hire 8,000 toilet maintenance staff? I don’t know if I should laugh or cry when I read this. And the funny thing is that while we find this funny, the Chinese seems very proud of their 8,000 toilet maintenance staff.

Now that I will laugh at!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Taliban gaining ground in Afghanistan

Good news on the War on Terror: Germany is going to send another 1,000 men to Afghanistan.

Bad news on the War on Terror: No one thinks that will be enough.

That is in essence what is happening in Afghanistan as the resilient Taliban is slowly gaining ground while NATO is desperately trying to put more troops on the ground. The 43,000 NATO's force in Afghanistan are having their hands full as the Taliban insurgency is scoring some notable success on the field, especially in the country's south where they are most active.

Outside a massive jailbreak when the Taliban freed about 800 of their men from a jail, they have also managed to attack a military supply convey which destroy 40 trucks, and NATO commanders had reported that attacks by Taliban insurgents in eastern Afghanistan have increased by 40% compared with the same period last year. These attacks by the Taliban (especially the jailbreak) had won respect from even NATO commanders; you know you are doing good when even your enemies are giving you grudging respect.

Whatever happen to the days when Taliban militants are 'on the run', 'on their deathbeds' etc. I taught this was one war America was winning? So much for another 'Mission Accomplished' by Bush.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

More Problems at UBS

When GIC (Government of Singapore Investment Corp) invested $10 billion in Swiss bank UBS, they say that it is a good long-term investment for Singapore. I must say GIC must be looking at the very, very long-term because so far, it’s been bad news all the way.

Here’s the latest bad news for UBS. The US FBI is now traveling to Switzerland to probe the company for a multi-million-dollar tax evasion case. This move is due to the confession of former UBS banker Bradley Birkenfeld last week that he conspired to help wealthy American clients dodge millions of dollars in taxes.

Birkenfeld pleaded that while he was a director of UBS' private banking division, he met frequently with wealthy Americans wanting to conceal their assets abroad and he as well as other managers, also advised clients to conceal their assets by buying jewels, art and luxury goods using the money in their Swiss accounts and then deposit them in Swiss safety boxes.

The US probe is another headache for GIC who had invested in UBS after they had lost 37 billion dollars during the US sub-prime crisis. I wonder just how ‘long-term’ it will be before Singapore start getting some good returns on this ‘good long-term’ investment.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Euro 08 Semis

After a month of soccer, the semis of Euro 08 are finally here. Thanks heavens the quarters were much better in quality than the round-robins matches. Here my view of the countries still in the running.

Germany- After the 2-1 defeat to Croatia in their second group game, Germany have again showed why you can never write them off. After beating host Austria and favorites, Portugal, the Germans will be the favorites against the Turks. They deserved to be as Germany coach Joachim Low seems to have found a winning line-up. Putting Simon Rolfes and Bastian Schweinsteiger in the team have free up Michael Ballack and Lukas Podolski to go further up the field in support of Miroslav Klose. Of course dropping Mario Gomez (who can miss the goal from 3metres) has also helped a lot.

Turkey- The never-say-die attitude of theirs had won much admiration from neutrals but they are so decimated by injuries and suspensions for the Euro 2008 semi-final against Germany that Coach Fatih Terim has nine players from his squad unavailable for the clash. The biggest loss to me was Tuncay Sanli, who was just full of running against the Croats. Even with a full team, the Turks would have been underdogs so this might be as far as they will go.

Winner: Germany

Russia- Boss Guus Hiddink is known as a miracle-worker, and after his work with Russia, I believe his reputation. He had turned a no-hoper in Russia and guided them to the semis. The defense still looked very suspect, but their attack is on song. Roman Pavlyuchenko may miss more than he hit but he is big, strong and a willing runner. However, the reason why Russia’s attack has gone up a notch is the return of Andrei Arshavin. His ability to take the ball and beat the first defender opens up the defenses of the opposition. I don’t think it will be enough against the Spaniards, but with Arshavin in the side, it will not be another 4-1 thrashing.

Spain- Spain beat Italy 4-2 on penalties to reach the semi-finals of Euro 2008. Yes, Spain is in the semis of a major championship. Will wonders never ceased. For all the talk of David Villa and Fernando Torres, the one player that most impressed me is Marcos Senna. The defensive midfielder has been running non-stop which gives a solid platform for the team to attack. After having beaten Russia 4-1 in a group game earlier, Spain will be full of confidence for the match. Let just hope they don’t implode again.

Winner: Spain

Friday, June 20, 2008

Comics this week

Trinity #3- Hate to say this and I feel like a broken record, but the shadow of 52 covers all weekly. And I'm afraid to say Trinity paled in comparisons. I'm a fan of Kurt Busiek but I wonder why is the Justice League in this issue. I mean all they did was to show up and get their ass handed to them by the big, bad alien monster; and then to have the JLA fall to their knees thanking the heavens Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman has arrived. I'm okay with the Big Three coming to save the day but was it that necessary to have the JLA be as useless as that? I'm still having problems with the back-up story. This week shows Tarot, who I think is a new character, a psychic who is having problems with some local gang and may have some mystical ties to the Big Three. The problem is that I don't see the use of the back-up at all. After 12 pages of a big alien fight, we have 10 pages of a woman with some gang problems? That make no sense at all. Hope Trinity will get better

Guardians of Galaxy #2- Guardians of Galaxy is a funny series for me. I like Adam Warlock, Phyla-Vell, Drax, Gamora, even Groot; but the book is missing something. That's chemistry, or a lack of it. As the team is suppose to be a bunch of misfits put together by Star-Lord, I can understand part of it as the team is still trying to get use to one another, but I would like to know how the members feel about each other. Outside Cosmo and Rocket Raccoon can't stand each other, we don't really know or even have any interaction between the team members. Quasar cooking dinner for Drax was great, but I would like to have more of those scenes. I'm not too sure about using characters from the original Guardians of the Galaxy, but I'll hold my judgement on that for now. But I hope Captain Victory isn't going to play the Captain America role in this team, the team is big enough as it is. The last thing we need is another JSA.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Take the Bus

Road Tax may have been reduced by 15% from 1/7, but there's no relief for motorists in Singapore as there are extensive ERP increased in the Central Business District (CBD). As expected, many motorist are now complaining and feeling that they don't a choice but to prepare to pay more.

Here's a suggestion for everyone; don't drive!

I think everyone will agree that a car is not that necessary in Singapore, so instead of trying to find ways and means to avoid the ERP, just dump the car! That’s one option that's too painful (or too 'no-face') for motorists but that's there best option. Even if you can find a way to avoid the ERP, chances are that it will be a longer route than usual, and thus that's more petrol costs. That's not even counting the introduction of even more ERP gantries in November!

So what's the best way to save money? Take the bus.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

NBA Champions!

That’s it! The Boston Celtics has won their 17th NBA title after beating the L.A Lakers in 6 games. If only Singaporepools has bets on NBA games.

After 22 years, the Celtics has finally won the NBA title again. Having seemed the games, I have to say the Celtics deserved the title. Not only did they came back from 24 points to win Game 4, almost came back from 19 points to win Game 5; they also won Game 6 by 39 (a record for the biggest margin of victory in a championship clincher).

The Big Three, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, were important for Boston but it was their bench who won the title for them. James Posey, Leon Powe and even Sam Cassell came up big at various points of the series as the Celtics’ veteran bench just outplayed the Lakers’ bench. Whereas Pierce, Allen and Posey swarm all over Kobe; Powe and Cassell took over some of the scoring duties from the starting line-up. Something Kobe did not have.

Boston in 6 games, the new NBA champions!

NBA Champions!

That’s it! The Boston Celtics has won their 17th NBA title after beating the L.A Lakers in 6 games. If only Singaporepools has bets on NBA games.

After 22 years, the Celtics has finally won the NBA title again. Having seemed the games, I have to say the Celtics deserved the title. Not only did they came back from 24 points to win Game 4, almost came back from 19 points to win Game 5; they also won Game 6 by 39 (a record for the biggest margin of victory in a championship clincher).

The Big Three, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, were important for Boston but it was their bench who won the title for them. James Posey, Leon Powe and even Sam Cassell came up big at various points of the series as the Celtics’ veteran bench just outplayed the Lakers’ bench. Whereas Pierce, Allen and Posey swarm all over Kobe; Powe and Cassell took over some of the scoring duties from the starting line-up. Something Kobe did not have.

Boston in 6 games, the new NBA champions!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Don't make me laugh

Singaporeans has always been known in this region for blowing our own trumpets. Ask any Malaysian, any Thai, any Filipino etc, and they can tell you how Singaporeans will not hesitate to tell you Changi Airport is No.1 in the world, our ports is the busiest in the world…see, even I am guilty of this.

But I draw the line at telling lies about our city. The Singapore Arts Festival recently announced a tie-up with the Edinburgh International Arts Festival to send several local productions abroad. Somehow, this means that Singapore is going through an artistic renaissance right now.

Tell me, since when did Singapore stop being a culture wasteland and became a culture oasis? I mean really; how many plays had you seen recently? If you had seen some; I am willing to bet that those are foreign productions which were bought over from overseas. AKA, buying culture like buying our sporting success (table tennis, badminton, soccer etc).

In short, Singaporeans don’t care about culture. We just don’t.

So let’s not say too much about our non-existing arts and culture scene. We have Changi Airport, our ports, ERP system, COEs for cars. Let’s blowing our trumpets on things we are actually famous/infamous for; there's plenty there, no need to tell lies about ourselves.

Monday, June 16, 2008

ASEAN need to hit Myanmar's rulers

I know how much money Singapore has in Myanmar, but ASEAN countries must do something about Myanmar’s rulers. Foreign ministers have been meeting to discuss how to help Myanmar ever since Cyclone Nargis hit the country, and it seems to me Myanmar's military rulers don’t want any help from anyone.

Not only that, they are now jailing people who want to help. Zaw Thet Htwe, a popular sports writer, has been arrested after helping deliver aid to victims of the cyclone in Myanmar. He had organized five trips to deliver aid to victims of Cyclone Nargis in the devastated Irrawaddy Delta and his arrest came one week after the arrest of Myanmar's most famous comedian, Zaganar, who had also helped delivered aid to cyclone victims.

So not only has the ruling junta hamper international relief efforts (turning away U.S relief ships), they are now turning their eye to their own countrymen! Considering that Cyclone Nargis has left more than 130,000 dead or missing, people need all the help they can get. But instead of helping the people, the ruling junta seems to be more interested in ‘stopping’ aid.

ASEAN has been ‘jaw-jaw’ with Myanmar's rulers for a long time already, with little to nothing to show for it. I suggest ASEAN take some drastic actions now. Kick Myanmar out of ASEAN or support sanctions against the junta.

Nothing else seems to work, so let’s hit the pockets of Myanmar's rulers. Maybe we can then finally get some help to the people of Myanmar

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Ascendancy of the Last by Lisa Smedman

With D&D going into the 4th Edition, the Forgotten Realms world of Toril will go forward 100 years. One of the first thing gamers asked is, “What will happen to all the NPCs like the Seven Sisters?”

When Wizard of the Coast (Wotc) said that most of them will not be around, you know that characters are going to start dying on you. That in short is the most important thing that happened in ‘Ascendancy of the Last’. Book three of the Lady Penitent series, ‘Ascendancy of the Last’ will be noted for the death of Qilue, high priestess of Eilistraee and one of the Seven Sisters.

The book basically continue from where ‘Sacrifice of the Widow’ left off. The game between Eilistraee and Lolth is coming to an end and decisions had to be made on the part of Eilistraee. In the end, Eilistraee lost the game to Lolth (as expected) but tainted Lolth’s victory by saving thousands of drow in the process. So how was the book?

Not one of Lisa Smedman’s better works, I’m afraid. I loved the 2 previous books in the series but not this one. The main problem is that due to the book’s size, Lisa Smedman had to rush through a lot of things. How did Q'arlynd’s spell (which didn’t go exactly to plan) remove the taint from the drow? Why did the skin color of the ‘saved’ drow turned from black to dark brown? None of it was explained as the plot jumped at times.

I can only guess this is due to an editor’s pen because they had to set things up for the 4th Ed. That is understandable on a certain level but some of the stuff is just stupid. Dark elves are now dark brown while drow are black? A drow assassin managing to track a teleporting mage all over the Underdark? If you want to set things up in a certain way, you must at least come up with a reasonable explanation for it. Even fantasy lovers like me are not going to accept everything to be under ‘magic’.

Some of the good plots from the previous books were also ignored. The internal power struggles between Vhaeraun’s and Eilistraee's followers was skipped over. I mean how did the superb nightshadows from the previous 2 books suddenly become such idiots? How did Qilue not know she was possessed when she was high priestess of a holy goddess?

I liked a fast pace book as much as the next guy but at times, this book is crazy. I’ll loved to see what Smedmen’s story will be liked if she had another 50-100 more pages to play around with but as it is, ‘Ascendancy of the Last’ is a disappointing finish to what was a good series.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Comics this week

Trinity #2- This is why I love Kurt Busiek. His work over the years has been great and he showed his class once again. One thing good about Busiek is the characterization of his heroes and villains. Only two issues in and we can see it already. Superman’s comment about how Wonder Woman wanted a personal best at robot bashing was cute. I didn’t get the Batman sequence. Just how did he break the spell (or whatever it was) with a simple "No"? However, the big problem for me is the back-up story. Konvikt & Graak? I worry about this formula they have going about splitting the book into two. I’m just not sure about 52 back-up stories. But so far, so good.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Bombshell hit the NBA

Just when things are looking up for the NBA with the dream NBA finals featuring the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, a bomb was dropped on the NBA. Tim Donaghy, a former NBA referee at the center of a gambling scandal alleged that he is not the only NBA referee who is influencig NBA results.

Reports in the U.S says that Tim Donaghy claimed that NBA routinely encouraged refs to ring up fouls to manipulate results and discouraged them from calling technical fouls on star players. This is to keep them in games and protect ticket sales and television ratings.
Donaghy, who faces up to 33 months in prison for pleading guilty last year alleging he took cash from gamblers and bet on games himself, says that if the NBA wanted a team to succeed, NBA league officials would inform referees that opposing players were getting away with ‘violations’. As expected, the NBA called the allegations baseless.

The problem for the NBA is how detailed Donaghy’s allegations are. In one of several allegations of corrupt refereeing, Donaghy said that in May 2002, two referees were working a best-of-seven series in which ‘Team 5’ was leading 3-2. In the sixth game, he alleged the referees purposely ignored personal fouls and called ‘made-up’ fouls on Team 5 in order to give additional free throw for Team 6. ‘Team 6’ won the game and came back to win the series. Without question that is the Los Angeles Lakers-Sacramento Kings series. That series went to seven games during the 2002 playoffs and the Lakers went on to win the championship. With the Shaq-Kobe duo at LA, one can see why the NBA would want the Lakers to win instead of the Kings. Just for the record, the Lakers, who beat Sacramento 106-102 in that game in Los Angeles, shot 27 free throws in the final quarter and scored 16 of their last 18 points at the line.

Like they say, there’s no smoke without fire and these allegations aren’t new. For years, people were complaining that referees were favoring certain teams. Now with this, the year with the dream NBA finals might turn out to be a year the NBA would rather forget.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Euro 08: First matches

After the first round of matches, I can say Euro 08 is a bore. There’s one or two good matches, but most teams are somehow between defensive to very defensive. Here are the teams that had impressed me:

Spain- First off, let me say the 4-1 score-line flattered Spain. The Russian hit the post and their captain had a very good chance near the end of the game. However, I like the frontline of Fernando Torres and David Villa. Villa may be the one who had the hat-trick, but it was Torres who created the chances with his running and ability to take on defenders. However, one can never underestimate Spain's grim ability to implode on themselves. At every major championship, you know they will implode sooner or later. I think Euro 08 will finish in familiar fashion for them as well. Till then, just enjoy the good soccer they are playing.

Holland- Ruud van Nistelrooy's controversial opening goal against Italy was off-side. Everyone thought so. Van Nistelrooy thought he was offside, the Italians thought he was off-side, everyone but the referees. So the next time someone comes off for treatment, make sure he is at the halfway line because he is still ‘in play’, even when he is off the field of play. Understand? If you don’t, you are not the only one.
To be fair, the Italians did not deserve to lose 3-0. The main reason for the score-line is Edwin van der Sar. The Manchester United keeper made some very good saves, and that’s why I like Holland now. Traditionally, the Dutch attack is much better than their defense. If their defense can match their attack, watch out for them to win the whole thing.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Another thing we don't need!

The world's biggest computer maker, Hewlett-Packard, has become the latest PC makers to launch a new generation of touchscreen PC. This is of course to follow Apple’s ground-breaking iPhone, who is the first big product to have a touchscreen.

I hate touchscreen! No really, I don’t understand this new touchscreen craze at all. Why are HP & Apple trying to ramp this useless, pointless application down the public’s throats? I know they have spend a lot of money to develop touch technology, but that’s hardly a reason for this useless invention. What’s wrong with the mouse?

Also, what about people with fat fingers? How is the touchscreen better for people like that? I just cannot understand why the touchscreen is better than the mouse? If it’s not better, why should we pay more for an item we don’t need?

HP; please tell us.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Who is better for Singapore?

Months after her candidacy was effectively over, Hillary Clinton finally bowed out of the Presidential race and now there is only 2 serious contender left in the U.S Presidential Election.

Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain, who will be better for Singapore? One thing I will say for sure; this will be a strange race. Not only because Obama is black, but also because of John McCain. Historically, Asia prefer the Republican candidates because they are believers in free-trade and better on security. Strangely, this might not be the case this time.

Not only is McCain weak on trade (because he knows so little about it), he also want America to be in Iraq till the 'job is done'; no matter how long it'll take. Considering how much the Iraq mess has cost America, it might not be the best case for America. McCain is also more gung-ho than Obama on Iran and Afghanistan, so much so that Obama had to raise his language to match McCain. So is McCain better in security? He might be stronger, but that might not necessary be better.

Obama also has faults. Although he had lived in Indonesia when he was younger, he is also an unknown. He is very inexperience. People in America says that he is a good speaker but has no track record for them to follow. They have a point. The fact that he is black will also play a part. The blacks in America will support him, however a good section of whites will not. That is a problem because a united America is better than a diveded America, and Obama might not be the man for that job. And Singapore would want a strong America.

So who is better for Singapore? Your guess is as good as mine.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Alarm at Oil Price

Alarm, alarm, sound the alarm! Wall Street tumbled nearly 400 points on Friday due to a pair of alarming economic news: the biggest gain in the U.S government's unemployment in more than 20 years and a Morgan Stanley analyst's forecast of $150 oil by July 4. In case anyone doesn’t know, July 4 is less than a month from now!

Remember when no one thought oil will break above $100? Those were the good old days. Oil at $150 per barrel is going to hurt everyone, not just the Americans. Malaysia will have to increase prices even more if oil keeps going up. Even Singapore will be affected. As the price of oil goes up, people will start to use less of it. That means less work for the oil refineries which is still the lifeblood of the Singapore economy. Just imagine if the price go up to $200 per barrel!

Singapore is not helped by our Israeli ally. The Israeli are quoted as saying Israel would attack Iran if it doesn't abandon its nuclear program. For all our sake, I hope this is the last time we hear this. The last thing the world needs is yet another war in the Middle East.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Comics this week

Trinity #1- Yes I know. I said I wasn't going to touch this weekly series after the horror of Countdown, but what can I say. I'm a fan of KurtBusiek. On his name alone, I will give this a try. Of course, follow writer Fabian Nicieza and artist Mark Bagley are both plus as well. First off, I'm not too sure about the new format. This issue is split into 2, with 15 pages on the main feature and another 15 on the back-up story. Most people will pick this up due to the trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. I'm not too sure about having a back-up story for 52 issues. It just might not work.
The story itself is off to a good start. Outside an unnecessary cameo by the Flash and his kids, the story was well set-up. Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman all have the same dreams and decide to have a chat about this. The scene was well-done. You can clearly see that these are 3 characters who despite their different personalities, can work well together. The backup story featuring Morgaine Le Fey and Enigma didn't do quite as well. They seems to be set-up as the main villains of the story, but Morgaine Le Fey and Enigma pale in comparisons to the Trinity. That's a problem Busiek and Nicieza have to solve quickly. I mean the Trinity are 3 of the most powerful heroes in the DCU, how many bad guys could stand up to these 3 in a group? Not too many I afraid.
A good start, but after the horror of Countdown, Busiek will have to do more to get me to collect all 52 of the series.

Secret Invasion #3- I just knew this was going to happen. Big hints this issue that Tony Stark is a Skrull. I must say this continuing "mystery" surrounding key characters like Iron Man and Captain America is without doubt the most boring part of this series. Is Iron Man a Skrull? Is the dead Captain America a Skrull as well? He didn't turn green when he died, did he? Hello, we have a full invasion going on here. How about less time in the Savage Land and more time on the battlefield? The battle in New York City was without question what saved this issue. When green aliens arrived on Earth, the heroes response and the body count rises. That's an invasion. How about more of that?

Nova #14- I must say the Silver Surfer guest-star has been wasted. Nova is one of the best series in the stand, and frankly he do not need this 'guest-starring to boost sales' gimmick. Beyond a well-workout fight, this issue didn't really do anything for me. A nice but hardly great issue.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

NBA Preview

Just a day before Lakers-Celtics NBA Finals and I thought I give my 2 cents on what must be THE dream final for the NBA marketing guys. At the start of the season, I thought it will be Spurs-Celtics...I was damm close, wasn't I?

Now for the breakdown as I see it-
Centre- Pau Gasol must the steal (or donation) of the season (of the decade even), but the Celtics have Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins in the middle. Yes, I know Garnett is the power-forward but see the way he plays and tell me he's not playing like a centre. However, I like the Celtics for this match-up because of Perkins. He was a monster against the Pistons and if he can constantly get 10 rebounds against the Pistons, I like his chances against the smaller line-up of the Lakers. About even but I will go against the gain and say Celtics just win this one.

Forwards- With 2 of their Big 3 in the forward line-up, Boston got this one in the bag. I think Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are going to have their way against the Lakers and I don't think there's too many people who will disagree with me here. In fact the only interesting thing I see here is whether Lamar Odom can limit Pierce's scoring. If he can, Phil Jackson will be a happy man. Celtics!

Guards- Ray Allen has struggled in the playoffs while Rajon Rondo is quite frankly a vastly over-rated player. He is a young talent but prone to making some very stupid mistakes at times. The Lakers has Derek Fisher and a certain MVP named Kobe, last name not needed. What else is there to say? Lakers by a mile.

Bench- They couldn't be more different. Lakers has a young bench with Ronny Turiaf, Sasha Vujacic and Luke Walton. All young talent hungry for success while the Celtics has a bench loaded with experience. Sam Cassell, Eddie House, P.J. Brown, James Posey have all been in the game for some time and know what it will take to get that ring. I have to go for the Celtics here due to the experience.

Coach- 'Doc' Rivers has done a good job this year but Phil Jackson is looking for his 10th NBA title. Jackson has got the Lakers into the finals when no one thought they had a chance in hell of getting past the Spurs, Suns etc. Lakers!

Intangibles- The magic word is HOME-COURT! The Celtics may have lost one to the Pistons but at other times they have looked just incredible at home. They didn't just beat teams in Boston, they killed them by 10-20 points! For the Lakers to win the series, they must win in Boston. I don't think they can. Boston due to the home-court advantage.

In the end, I will say the Celtics in 6.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Survey of Nothing

A survey by a smart, successful man on why there is a growing band of bachelors who refuse to marry? Bachelor Carl Weisman say that according to his survey, men refuse to get married because they are afraid of a bad marriage. Better solo than tied up?

He need a survey for that? Of course men are steering clear of marriage. Why is that a surprise? Since the beginning of time, men has been complaining that marriage is a ball of chain for men. So they are now not marrying...why would anyone need a survey for this? Not only that, I find the survey to be stupid, Mr. Weisman concluded that most men were not afraid of marriage, just a bad marriage.

Of course everyone is afraid of a bad marriage! I will say that both men and women are afraid of a bad marriage. So that's not new either. So what is the survey?

A total waste of time and money!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

More Pain Coming

You know things are bad when even the top dogs are getting chased. Wachovia, the fourth-largest bank in the US, has just become the latest US banks to fire its CEO.

Wachovia said that Ken Thompson would be retiring at the request of its board of directors but retiring is just another codeword for getting canned. Not that this is unexpected, the bank lost $708m in the first three months of 2008! For all those who thought the finance crisis is about to over, read this and weep!

As Mr. Thompson's departure illustrate, things are still bad and if legendary investor Warren Buffet is to be believed, things will get a lot worse before it get better. Get ready for more pain

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Review of The Witcher

The tagline for The Witcher is; “There is no good, no evil- only decisions and consequences.”

Never before has there been a truer tagline for a PC game. That tagline sums up The Witcher to a T. Based on the book series of the same name by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, the game really don’t have a good or evil side for you to choose.

Unlike say some worlds which all characters are good or all characters are more or less evil, the world in The Witcher is grayer. You see good people doing evil things (in the name of the greater good of course), and he can ally with evil men (because it’s in their interest to help you). If you are one of those guys who like your world in black and white; this is not the game for you. There are scales of gray in almost everyone.

The game tells the story of Geralt, the White Wolf. A white-hair witcher, you suffer at the beginning of the game that most common of diseases…amnesia. You quickly learn that Geralt is a renowned witcher. Witchers are professional monster-hunters who receive special training and have their bodies modified at an early age to provide them with supernatural abilities like quick reflexes and magic. They are paid to kill extremely dangerous monsters which more common monster-hunters cannot survive against. The problem with Geralt is that he has had friends and enemies almost everywhere who remember him but whom he does not remember. Your actions as Geralt will define those relationships and choose his path in the political intrigue of the world of The Witcher.

The game’s story is very good. As it is based on a series of books, there are twists and turns in the plot that exactly means something. Your actions can really change some stuff in the world. In fact, it seems to me that many of the plot's points are triggered by the decisions I’ve made earlier in the game. This gave me a sense that my actions exactly means something, which is something I love. An example is a werewolf you will meet in the game. As a monster-hunter, it’s your job to kill the werewolf, but it’s your choice and it will affect you later on. If you kill the werewolf, his men will come for you later in the game; but if you let him go, later on he and his men will help you against your enemies.

This is but one small part of how your decisions can have consequences in the game. A decision you make in chapter 2 can have consequences in chapter 4, which is about 20 hours playtime later. So make your decisions wisely when you play this game.

The combat system is also a different from most games. You have three fighting styles. The quick style allows for fast attacks with a greater chance of hitting faster enemies; the heavy style deals more damage in exchange for a slow attack speed, and the group style, which features sweeping attacks you can use if you are surrounded by many enemies. This gives some variety to the normal hack/slash action where style and timing are more important than button mashing.

One thing I must say: This game is not for kids. As witchers can’t have kids, the game allows Geralt to have “conquests”. Yes, you can have in game sex with a lot of women in this game. After the act, a female portrait card will show up in your journal for your “memory”. Don’t worry, all the cards are censored and no exact act was shown in the game. Still it must be said: Women, wine and killing! What’s there not to like?

Still there are a few problems in the game. For one thing, the loading time is very, very long. Save before you go into a new map because the loading can be amazing long. Also some parts of the game might not be to your liking. An example is a king you will have to ally with. The king was engaged in an incestuous relation with own sister who born him his only daughter. However he loves his people very much and will do almost anything for them. Outside that little ‘mistake’, he is a generally good king who is respected by his people. Even his enemies will give him a benefit of the doubt. I don’t know about you but I had a hard time not remembering the part of an incestuous relation with his own sister.

The Witcher is a different game than most. Like I said earlier, the nature of the options you faced when playing the game DO NOT fall into the typical black-and-white morality present in most regular computer RPGs. Do you ally with the racist human knights who kill elves and dwarves civilians in the name of keeping order, or do you ally with the elven terrorists who kill human civilians for freedom? Which is the lesser of two evils for you?

For giving you this choice, I say this is one game you should be playing.